Together, alone

February 20, 2009

My doctor is also my husband’s doctor.  This is one of the things I like about seeing a family practitioner; because she knows both of us she has a more comprehensive idea of how each of us is doing.  She would have been Teddy’s pediatrician, too, doctor for my whole little family.  She’s suggested that we go to a couple of counseling sessions together, that this might be an especially good idea as we get ready to try for another baby.  We’ve talked about it, a little, and earlier this week decided to talk about it more seriously.

Last evening, N told me he’d set up a couple of counseling sessions, not for us, but for him.  I should just be glad that he’s willing to explore the idea of getting help, that he’s brave enough to try this, that he’s looking for a chance to open up to someone.

But he’s looking for a way to open up to someone who isn’t me, to talk about Teddy with someone who isn’t me.  I was shocked by how much this stung.  He doesn’t talk to me much about his feelings or memories of Teddy, about how he’s handling the loss, about how it hits him on a daily basis.  We’re very close, and he’s been so good for such a long time at being there for me, but in this one emotional area I feel shut out, like a stranger knocking on his door begging for scraps.  No, worse, like a stranger afraid to knock on his door.  I know he worries about making me sadder, making me cry.  I can see him avoiding calling up the sadness within himself – he didn’t read the bulk of the sympathy cards or the book that the Ronald McDonald house staff sent us last month, and I don’t think he looks at Teddy’s pictures.

I know some of this is what he’s had to do to survive.  Just a couple days after we returned from the hospital, he had to start a new job teaching two classes of roughly 80 students each.  He didn’t get the time to stay home and let grief wash over him that I did.  And he had to keep himself pulled together at work.  So we didn’t mourn differently just because we are different people, but also because his schedule and responsibilities were harsher to him than mine were to me.  But I wonder if he’s ever fully faced up to the grief, if he’s afraid to open the floodgates now because of what’s been building up.  We’ve talked about this a little, but I still don’t know.

When I cry, he seems to take it as a sign that he’s done something wrong, that he’s caused me pain.  I don’t think he knows that, so often now, I feel better after crying.   I don’t cry in front of him much anymore.  I do it when he’s napping, when I’m at work and can lock myself in my office, during final relaxation at yoga, when I’m in the car.  It’s a sad thing to learn, that you will inevitably hurt the person you love most, who loves you most, that you can’t shield him from your own damned pain.  I’ve learned this, but I keep trying not to hurt him any more than he’s been hurt already.

We bear so much of each other’s grief, and I love him so much, and often I fear that if I let him see the depth of my grief, that this, on top of his own grieving, would be too much.  Maybe he hides his emotions from me for the same reasons.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case, if we were in some sort of bleak version of an O’Henry story, but I wish I knew, wish he could talk to me about it.  I’m watching the topography of our relationship change, and I don’t know where all of the mountains and valleys are shifting, or where new sources of seismic activity may show up, or where we come together and where we are alone, and this scares me sometimes.

Writing here, that’s my therapy for me.  I don’t think he has anything like this – I know he journals, but I don’t know what he writes, or how often.  I hope he goes to the sessions and I hope they help, that he’s able to open up and do whatever he has to do to get through this.  Maybe it will help him talk to me after a while.



  1. Maybe he knows what he needs.

    That doesn’t mean you guys can’t do some together counseling in a few weeks. We found it helpful to hear what the other said, and what the therapist said in response.

    Triple S does the same thing, not wanting to make me sad,and worrying that I am TOO sad if I cry a bit Jeez, it’s just *crying*.

  2. Men and women hold this so differently. Crying is not easy for most men. Many people in general don’t get that crying actually feels good, that it helps. I’d venture to say that a lot of his need to talk to someone else right now is because he sees how heavy it is already for you, and doesn’t want to add to that. Maybe it’s that primal male protector thing, to want to protect others from harm, especially the harm they feel they might inflict. Men are about that. And they are more independent. Women are more interdependent, about connection. So of course we are going to grieve differently, cry differently, feel differently. I think it’s good that he made the appointments for himself. I agree with Ya Chun that maybe he knows what he needs. And right now is just right now. Who knows what that opportunity for opening will create for him, and for you both?

  3. My husband is similar. He was back at work 10 days post-baby, and he didn’t have the grieving time. I’ve found him in tears a few times, and we’ve done therapy together since the beginning which has helped some.

    I hope it helps you too. After a few sessions M was more talkative in therapy than I was. I think it was much more important for him than for me- once he was comfortable it was good for him to have someone other than me to talk to.

    Thinking of you guys.

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